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India announces concessions to cement ties with Bangladesh

Dhaka, June 26 India Thursday eased visa norms and agreed to supply more power to Bangladesh as part of decisions to scale up bilateral ties, with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj saying only an equitable partnership with Dhaka could ensure a prosperous South Asia.

In measures aimed at firming up relations, Sushma Swaraj held comprehensive discussions with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Bangladeshi counterpart which an official said were “constructive and productive, fruitful and successful”.

On the second and penultimate day of her visit, the Indian minister told a think tank here that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new government was focused on “productive partnerships” with its immediate neighbours.

“We are convinced that India’s development cannot be complete and sustainable unless we succeed in building productive partnerships with our immediate neighbours,” she said.

Sushma Swaraj was speaking at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies following her meetings with President Md Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Hasina and Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali.

Only “a comprehensive and equitable partnership with Bangladesh” could ensure “a secure and prosperous South Asia”, she said.

“We will walk the extra mile to create opportunities and to build virtuous cycles of prosperity in the region.”

In her first stand-alone trip abroad as foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj told Dhaka that Bangladeshi nationals below 13 and above 65 years of age would be eligible for five-year multiple entry visas as against the current period of one year.

External affairs ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin also said that India had agreed to supply an additional 100 MW of power from the Palatana project in Tripura to Bangladesh.

Sushma Swaraj also confirmed India’s willingness to increase the frequency of the Maitree Express train service and the number of air-conditioned coaches between the two countries.

She also proposed that India and Bangladesh should work on a possible Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati bus service.

Sushma Swaraj promised to build better ties with Bangladesh on all fields including trade, investment, transport, capacity building, environment-friendly practices and means that promote equitable development in the region.

“Building a comprehensive and equitable partnership with Bangladesh is essential for realisation of our vision of a stable secure and prosperous South Asia.”

Earlier, Akbaruddin said in a statement that Sushma Swaraj’s discussions with Bangladeshi leaders “have been constructive and productive, fruitful and successful”.

“…The entire gamut of issues that constitute the ‘staples’ of India-Bangladesh relations were discussed,” he added.

Earlier Thursday, the Bangladeshi foreign minister quoted Sushma Swaraj as saying that India was trying to reach a consensus on a water sharing formula for the Teesta river so that a treaty could soon be signed. quoted him as saying that Sushma Swaraj was hopeful about implementing the long-pending Land Boundary Agreement “very soon”.

He said Sushma Swaraj had sought a special economic zone for Indian investors.

The two ministers also discussed matters like security, trade, border issues and counter-terrorism.

Sushma Swaraj handed over to Prime Minister Hasina a letter from Prime Minister Modi inviting her to visit India.

Over one hour, the two discussed trade and investment, security, connectivity, and border management, among other issues.

“We will devote our energy to working much more closely in pursuit of our development goals,” the Indian minister said.

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